Hicks victorious in top-5 battle

Leesville Daily Leader

The Pirates took a lead late in the second quarter and never looked back to defeat the Hornets 61-51 Tuesday night at Hicks High School.

"I liked our effort, and we knew Hornbeck was going to come in with a lot of intensity," Hicks head coach Neil Standifer said. "We knew we had to match that intensity. Any time we play, we both fight real hard. I also liked the way we shot the ball from the outside. They did a good job neutralizing our inside game. We didn't get a lot of good looks inside or get to the foul line as much as we would want."

Hornbeck struggled from the field, hitting just a pair of 3s, which is well under its average.

"Hicks does a good job with their 2-3 zone," Hornbeck head coach Charlie Alexander said. "We didn't shoot the ball well, and if you don't shoot the ball well against a good zone, you're in trouble."

The Hornets took a 15-9 lead on a layup by Brylon Evans in the first quarter, but the Pirates tied it up with a 3 by Austin Merchant with 5:56 to play in the first half.

Merchant is the lone returning starter from last year's state runner up, but the Pirates have maintained a spot in the top of the standings with production from new players.

"It's heading in the right direction," Standifer said. "We have a lot of seniors that have been here a long time that don't have a lot of experience, but they've learned from the groups we had in the past. They learned from them every day in practice, and that produces guys that can step up, even though they have little experience."

Hicks took the lead late in the second quarter and extended it to 41-32 after another 3 by Merchant in the third. 

Hornbeck (20-9, 0-1) answered with six straight points – four coming from forward Cooper Smith – to pull within 4.

After the quick run by the Hornets, Pirate forward Skylar Phillips hit a 3 from the corner to give his team some breathing room.

Zalen Goodwin hit two big 3s and a layup to start the fourth quarter to make it 54-43 as Hicks (22-7, 1-0) held on to the win.

Merchant led Hicks with 21 points, and Goodwin finished with 17, including five 3s.

"We are very versatile," Standifer said. "We were last year, but weren't for sure if we would have that coming into this year. Guys are stepping up at the right time, and we're getting that same balanced scoring that we had last year."

Smith led Hornbeck with 30 points and was a force in the paint.

"He attacked the bucket and rebounded the ball well," Alexander said. "He's hard to stop when he's doing that.

"We have to get better on defense. At the beginning of the season, we were playing defense really well. I don't know if we've lost our legs because it's getting toward the end of the year, but we have to get better."